The transition to remote working, spurred by the pandemic, has reshaped the way we work, ushering in an era of flexibility in working practices. However, as organisations adapt to this new normal, an unexpected challenge of ‘proximity bias’ is emerging. This refers to organisations seeming to favour employees who are physically close to management, potentially jeopardising the career progression of remote workers.

A survey of C-suite executives in the US last year found that 41% believed that remote workers were less likely to be considered for promotion in their firms.

And a recent article by Raconteur (source:, highlights the growing concern that remote working has the unintended consequence of hindering career growth and reinforcing workplace inequalities, potentially more so for women.

How to avoid proximity bias and promote career progression

1.     Rethink promotion criteria: Evaluate your promotion criteria to ensure they’re based on merit rather than physical presence. Criteria should focus on productivity, impact and contributions to the organisation, irrespective of an employee's location.

2.     Virtual 1:1 time: Encourage managers to schedule regular check-ins with their remote teams via Teams, Zoom or even a good old-fashioned phone call. This can help bridge the gap between remote and in-office employees and create a more inclusive work environment.

3.     Structured mentorship: Establishing formal mentorship programmes that pair remote workers with in-office employees can help foster professional relationships and ensure remote employees are not left behind in terms of career development. 

4.     Transparent communication: Having transparent and open communication channels is essential. Reinforce your commitment to equity and inclusivity and provide trusted channels for employees to express concerns related to bias or career progression.

5.     Awareness: Stop and ask yourself fair are you being? Are you supporting the careers of all your team equally? Is anyone overlooked for promotion because they work from home? If they are less visible, are they overlooked despite maybe working harder? Simply being aware and mindful is one step closer to preventing it. To quote Catherine Garrod in her excellent book Conscious Inclusion, ‘Unless you’re consciously including people, you’re almost certainly unconsciously excluding people’.

In conclusion, whilst remote working offers undeniable advantages, organisations need to be be vigilant in addressing the challenges, particularly proximity bias, which can hinder the career progression of remote workers. By implementing the suggested solutions and fostering a more inclusive workplace culture, you can ensure that all your people, regardless of location, have equal opportunities for career advancement. Achieving this will lead to a more diverse and equitable workplace and also harness the full potential of your talent pool.

Interested? We'd love to have a chat Get in contact